MDMA, or Ecstasy, was first made in a lab in Germany in 1912. The German pharmaceutical company E. Merck patented it in 1914, not as a medicine, but as a chemical for making more useful drugs later on. MDMA was forgotten until 1953, when the United States Army funded a secret University of Michigan study to develop chemical weapons. After learning that MDMA was non-toxic, the government put it back on the shelf. Rumor says that the drug was tested for mind control purposes, or as a “truth drug”, but there is not actual evidence of that.
In 1978, Alexander Shulgin wrote a book detailing the MDMA experience called Phenethylamines I Have Known and Loved: A Chemical Love Story. Many psychiatrists took Shulgin's findings seriously enough to combine MDMA with sessions with their patients' normal therapy.
In the early '80s, MDMA made its way from the doctor's office to the dance floor from a Texas entrepreneur who synthesized the drug in a lab. He re-named it "Ecstasy" and sold it for $20 a hit—legally—in Dallas-Fort Worth clubs. But, the Drug Enforcement Agency worked quickly to outlaw MDMA, and Ecstasy officially became an illegal drug in 1985.
What Ecstasy does is simple. It combines two opposite effects, stimulation and relaxation, but in also provides a small quality of empathy. Psychotherapist RD Laing took MDMA in Esalen, California, in 1984 when it was still legal. He said, "It made me feel how all of us would like to feel we are anyway . . . smooth and open hearted, not soggy, sentimental or stupid.” Another psychologist described it as providing a "brief, fleeting moment of sanity". Most people describe the feeling like being in love. The most common feelings experienced are empathy, openness, peace and caring. However, there have been cases in which the user has a decrease in defensiveness, fear or paranoia, sense of separation from others, aggression, and obsessive behavior.
Side effects of Ecstasy can range from mildly uncomfortable to life threatening physical and emotional reactions. Your temperature goes up when you take Ecstasy, like a fever. Dancing in a hot warehouse doesn't help your body cool off, so it's no surprise that one of the most common Ecstasy-related injuries is heatstroke. Along with high body temperature, you sweat and urinate a lot if you take Ecstasy.